Obama Keeps Putin On The Pressure

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • HE SAID, HE SAID: President Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone yesterday that his country's intervention in the Crimean Peninsula is in violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. Obama urged Putin during an hour-long phone to embrace a diplomatic resolution "which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community," according to the White House. "As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May," the White House said. http://abcn.ws/1hSwp4f
  • BACKSTORY: Yesterday's phone call between the two world leaders came just hours after Obama slapped new visa restrictions on Russians opposing the new Ukrainian government and cleared the way for financial sanctions against those contributing to the crisis. It was Obama and Putin's second lengthy discussion since Russia intervened in the neighboring country. They had a tense 90-minute phone call last weekend.
  • IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last night on "World News," ABC's JEFF ZELENY looked inside CPAC - an early Spring Training for potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1fMLRu0


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Republicans believe the moment is at hand for a resurgence in their party, capitalizing on a weariness among voters with President Obama's second term and a craving in the country for yet another change election. A parade of Republicans on display at CPAC are all auditioning for a bigger role, offering mixed messages over how to balance electoral pragmatism and conservative purity. In all these GOP pep rallies this year, there's one unspoken question percolating just below the surface: If Republicans win control of the Senate this fall will that diminish the party's chances in the next presidential race? Several party elders, who are more focused on winning back the White House, privately fret that a Republican controlled House and Senate could unfairly raise expectations among the party's base and turn off those all-important independent voters who will once again hold the key to the outcome of the 2016 election.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: At the annual conservative carnival known as CPAC, Chris Christie was the biggest attraction - and it may have all had to do with bridges and traffic. But not in the expected sense: Christie was received with extraordinary warmth, quite possibly as a result of the media drubbing he's taken in recent months. It may be that the scandal has freed Christie to be as conservative as the crowd would expect. Attacking the media and attacking Washington works at CPAC, just as it works at tea party rallies across the country. He's gentlest tweak of tea partiers - his warning that to govern, you first have to win elections - didn't spark jeers. It will be a long road back to national political viability for Christie, but speeches like yesterday's have to be the start.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday trying to appeal to conservative activists. He even walked out holding a rifle, getting a cheer from the crowd, before giving it to Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. McConnell is in the middle of a primary fight against businessman Matt Bevin and the CPAC crowd is one he is trying to woo, but his campaign is out today with a new radio ad attacking not only Bevin, but also declaring war on the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group working to unseat some Republican incumbents, including McConnell. ABC News got a sneak peak of the ad, titled "Absurd," which will run for the next two weeks, and the campaign says it has an ad buy in the "upper five figures." "Matt Bevin and out-of-state special interest groups are attacking Mitch McConnell," the narrator says. "Nothing new. But can you believe them? PolitFact, a non-partisan fact-checker, says Bevin's attacks on McConnell are quote 'absurd … the claim is not only wrong, but ridiculous…' Endquote." http://abcn.ws/1hSUaJZ


ABC GOES INSIDE THE AMERICAN BRIDGE WAR ROOM DURING CPAC. With one of the biggest Republican gatherings of the year in full swing at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a group of Democratic operatives in Washington is fighting back - waging a full-out public relations war to counter CPAC. "We are kind of the central apparatus for tracking and research, really, on the progressive side. And so at an event like CPAC, we put our resources to work," said American Bridge PAC president Brad Woodhouse, speaking to "The Fine Print" during a rare tour of the Democratic group's so-called war room. The room is filled with rows of desks equipped with double-monitor computer screens, which a group of about 40 Democratic operatives are using to monitor and fact-check speeches at CPAC as they happen, issue rapid responses, and monitor the media and social networking sites. For more of the interview with Woodhouse, including how American Bridge PAC decides whether to reveal new dirt on a Republican target or to hold it in a vault for later use, check out this episode of "The Fine Print" with ABC's JEFF ZELENY. http://yhoo.it/1fd4OGj

THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': As conservatives gather in Washington, ABC News' Jonathan Karl goes one-on-one with two 2016 GOP frontrunners leading different factions of the Republican Party - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. - and "This Week" is the only place where you'll see them both this Sunday. And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, Republican strategist and ABC News contributor Ana Navarro, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, and former Obama White House senior adviser and ABC News contributor David Plouffe. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. And be sure to spring your clocks forward this weekend for Daylight Saving Time: http://abcn.ws/1f5NY0O Tune in Sunday: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek


-GUESS THE ONE DEMOCRAT RICK PERRY WANTS TO HAVE A BEER WITH. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is among the Republicans - and potential 2016 presidential hopefuls - courting conservatives this week at CPAC. The 64-year-old talked with ABC News about his travels to Iowa and South Carolina, and even revealed which Democrat he would most want to have a beer with. Here are a few of the questions ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ asked Perry: (1) What's the one thing you most want to accomplish before you leave office? "Well, obviously, to continue to build the economy in the state of Texas. We're working on some major projects, all of them a bit confidential from the standpoint of saying any names or what have you, but some of the largest projects that we've ever worked on before - and, hopefully, we can have them finalized." (2) Was Tuesday's Texas primary a good day or a bad day for the Tea Party? "It was a good day for Texans, by and large, from the standpoint we had very active elections - I'm pretty sure because the governorship was opened up by my departure and you had the trickle-down effect." (3) Who's one Democrat you'd want to have a beer with? Click here for the answer: http://abcn.ws/1fLh0UT

WHY IS CHRISTINE O'DONNELL TEASING CHRIS CHRISTIE? We haven't seen much of conservative activist Christine O'Donnell since she lost her U.S. Senate race in Delaware in 2010 after a shock primary win. But we will always remember her ad from that year, the cycle's most buzzed about, when she declared: "I am not a witch." At CPAC, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE put O'Donnell in the hot seat. She told us the Democrats she would like to have a beer with even weighed in on Chris Christie's lane closures scandal . (1) Do you think John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are true conservatives? "They are doing the best they can, with such a divided party. I would like to see more of an adamant stance ." (2) Who's going to be president in 2016? "I don't now but all I can say, my prediction is, it won't be Barack Obama" (3) What Democrat would you like to have a beer with? Click here for the answer: http://abcn.ws/1nmESyH


CHRISTIE TO OBAMA: 'WHAT THE HELL ARE WE PAYING YOU FOR?' New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave a rousing speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference taking on President Obama while stressing his own conservative credentials, reports ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. Christie's signature tough talking style was on full display when he took on Obama asking, "Mr. President, what the hell are we paying you for?" "Leadership," Christie said, "is not about standing on the sidelines and spit-balling." Christie also spoke about foreign policy, again attacking the president: "We need to make sure we say we are for America being a leader in the world and we are for a strong national defense, not one that allows other countries to run us over all over the world." Christie, a possible 2016 presidential contender and the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, offered shout-outs to several other GOP governors - including some who could be presidential rivals - like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Notably he left off Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana who took the stage shortly after him. http://abcn.ws/1gVtt4J

MCCONNELL's GOT A GUN. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came onto the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference brandishing some a long gun, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. McConnell held the rifle over his head - and the CPAC crowd loved it. Moments later, McConnell handed the gift, a lifetime achievement award from the National Rifle Association, to his retiring colleague, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, who is leaving his term early for health reasons. "This is for you," McConnell said. "For your distinguished service." Kentucky's senior senator faces his toughest re-election bid yet, and it is being made even more difficult by disenchantment among voters in his own party. McConnell delivered a red meat speech to the conservative activists, pummeling President Obama and Democrats for having done "next to nothing for the little guy," failing working families, and flaunting the Constitution. "The president of the United States is treating our Constitution worse than a placemat at Denny's," McConnell said. http://abcn.ws/1oucUjg

JINDAL: OBAMA WORSE THAN JIMMY CARTER. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal questioned President Obama's intelligence yesterday in a series of jabs that included an assessment that Obama has been a worse president than Jimmy Carter, who has long been punch line for conservative Republicans, according to ABC's ERIN DOOLEY. Jindal's stinging remarks came before the Conservative Political Action Conference, a bastion of conservatives and a favorite spot for potential presidential candidates to audition their attack lines. "We have long said this president is a smart man. It may be time to revisit that assumption," Jindal deadpanned. "Or at least to make a distinction between being book smart and truly wise."Jindal even apologized to former President Carter, who he once called the most incompetent president in his lifetime. "It's no longer fair to say he was the worst president," Jindal told the conference-goers. "Obama has proven me wrong." http://abcn.ws/1g3BAhQ

DONALD TRUMP KILLS OFF JIMMY CARTER. Donald Trump bumped off a living president yesterday. "I think by next month, we will have surpassed the late, great Jimmy Carter," Trump said during his remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference, a large annual gathering of conservative activists and political figures. During the mostly-meandering speech, Trump - who proudly announced he refused a Teleprompter - predicted an "economic catastrophe" in 2016, 2017 and 2018. "Whoever's president, good luck!" he shrugged. "We're becoming a third world country!" http://abcn.ws/1gdfgyA


POLL: TWO-THIRDS BACK KEYSTONE PIPELINE. Support for the Keystone XL pipeline reached a two-year high in the latest ABC News/ Washington Post poll, with the public overwhelmingly saying it would create jobs, while dividing on its potential environmental impact, according to ABC's DAMLA ERGUN. Two-thirds favor government approval of the 1,700-mile, $5.4 billion pipeline to move oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, up 6 points from 2012, vs. two in 10 opposed. Eighty-five percent think it would create jobs, with 62 percent feeling that way strongly - up 11 percentage points. Views that the pipeline would create a significant number of jobs far outstrip concerns that it poses a sizable environmental risk - an opinion nonetheless held by 47 percent in this poll. Notably, among those who see a risk, 45 percent support the pipeline anyway, apparently persuaded by the perceived jobs benefit. Strong belief that the pipeline will create jobs is up in particular, by 13 to 20 points, among men, political independents, nonwhites and Americans living in the Midwest and the South, regions through which the pipeline would pass. http://abcn.ws/MTxAop

OOPS - OBAMA SHARES HIS 'R-S-P-E-C-T' FOR THE 'WOMEN OF SOUL'. President Obama has nothing but "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" for the women of soul, even if he accidentally misspelled the title of Aretha Franklin's signature anthem, according to ABC's MARY BRUCE. In an "oops" moment tonight, the president dropped a letter when paying tribute to the one and only Franklin at the White House concert series event, "In Performance at the White House: Women of Soul." "When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her, she had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African Americans, and women, and then everyone who felt marginalized because of what they looked like or who they loved. They wanted some respect," the president said. Making a "quick public service announcement," the president explained that when Franklin first walked into Fame Studio in 1967, most of the other musicians had never heard her sing live before. "When they did, one of them said, 'The floors rumbled and the walls shook. My brain shook. It was magic,'" Obama said. http://abcn.ws/O104NW

NOTED: MICHELLE OBAMA HANGS OUT WITH MELISSA ETHERIDGE AND PATTIE LABELLE. First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off Women's History Month on a high note on Thursday - celebrating alongside some of music's most talented "women of soul" and over 100 students from across the country, notes ABC's FREDA KAHEN-KASHI. "Today we're celebrating the kind of music that makes you move no matter who you are or where you come from; music that taps into feelings and experiences that we all share - love and heartbreak, pride and doubt, tragedy and triumph. It is called soul music," Obama said at the "I'm every woman: The History of Women in Soul" event. Obama was joined by Melissa Etheridge, her "other mother" Pattie LaBelle and Janelle Monáe, who she said is now like another child to her. http://abcn.ws/1ieKnw6


-"COUNTER PUTIN BY LIBERATING U.S. NATURAL GAS," a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "In response to Mr. Putin's aggression in Ukraine, President Obama should announce a series of steps that will dramatically expand production of American-made energy, beginning with lifting this de facto ban on exports of U.S.-produced liquefied natural gas. Taking this step would also create American jobs and lower prices for our consumers and small businesses when coupled with other moves that would bolster energy production in North America. These include construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ending the Obama administration's embargo on our supplies of oil and gas from federal lands and waters, and halting the effort to take coal out of America's electricity generation mix. The president doesn't need legislation from Congress to make these changes. This is something the commander in chief can do right now in the face of Mr. Putin's aggression. It would also provide much-needed evidence that the president's State of the Union commitment to an "all of the above" energy strategy is real, and not just poll-driven rhetoric. America not only has a right to develop and market its natural resources. In the face of rising danger, it has an obligation to do so." http://on.wsj.com/1f5ET8l

-"MAYORS SAY BIG CITIES ARE DRIVING US RESURGENCE," by the Associated Press. Mayors of some of America's biggest cities said Thursday that cities, not Washington, D.C., are driving the country's economic growth. Bill de Blasio of New York, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Kasim Reed of Atlanta spoke at a forum at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. The four - all Democrats - said being a big-city mayor is the best position in politics because they are able to implement new ideas quickly, without the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington and some state legislatures. As a result, they said, America's large cities are in the midst of a renaissance. 'Cities are where the action is,' Reed said. The relationship with the nation's capital is dramatically different than it was in the 1960s, when cities appealed for help and federal money flowed freely, they said. Emanuel called Washington 'totally AWOL' and 'a bit of Disneyland on the Potomac.' Garcetti said it is now cities that are saving America, not the other way around." http://on.wsj.com/1dyxUUl


@pewresearch: "Survey: Millennials Lean Left but Reject Party Labels" - @wsj story on our survey http://on.wsj.com/1nmH1KQ

@JohnCornyn: Republicans Offer Their Own Unemployment Insurance Plan http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/republicans-offer-their-own-unemployment-insurance-plan-20140306 … via @nationaljournal

@susanferrechio: From Susan Crabtree: Obama administration faces FOIA fire over ambassador picks http://washex.am/1e7yJQL via @DCExaminer

@GeraldFSeib: As Republicans wait for Scott Brown in New Hampshire, he seems to be sliding, while Jeanne Shaheen rises. http://on.wsj.com/1nmvLhr via @WSJ

@carol_e_lee: Profile of EPA chief Gina McCarthy: how her gritty style & concessions to industry ease tensions w EPA critics http://goo.gl/P0oTBK

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